How Hemp Fits the Pillars of Sustainability, by Tony Pooley

Hi, my name is Tony Pooley with Environmental Services, Inc. (ESI).  ESI is a full-service environmental consulting firm headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida with divisions in Ecology, Archeology, Forestry, Site Assessment and Remediation, and Cultural Resources. I head up the Sustainability and Resiliency Development Division for ESI with a focus on the three pillars of Sustainability: People, Planet and Profit. This means that we develop projects that will 1) have a tangible benefit to the community (People); 2) the project must enhance, restore & protect our environment (that’s the Planet part); and finally, 3) the project must make money (Profit). It’s the inclusivity of all three of these guiding principles that make a project sustainable.

I recently had the privilege of working with a talented group of leaders in an Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel.  We were tasked with evaluating the economic impact of the new U.S. 301 Bypass, and how to best attract new industry and business to Bradford County to help revitalize the Town of Starke.  My contribution for this exercise focused on Sustainable Agriculture.

Bradford County touts an impressive amount of active agriculture, and with this resides a sense of pride and deep desire to keep the rural character that is indicative of the farming culture. I see these “farm-life-values” as a strength AND coupled with the People-Planet-Profit model I mentioned earlier, Bradford County could consider converting a percentage of current crops into Industrial Hemp Agriculture.

Now quickly, I’d like to provide a little “Hempstory” and dispel the myth of Hemp. What are the differences between Hemp and Marijuana? Both are a form of cannabis; however, Hemp is NOT marijuana, and does not contain the psychoactive ingredient of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  Hemp is comprised of Cannabidiol (CBD) that is non-psychoactive.  In fact, prior to being banned and unintendedly named in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, Hemp cultivation had a long history in the U.S.  In 2018, Hemp was removed as a controlled substance making it an ordinary agriculture commodity, which is not on the rise in the U.S.  In fact, just last week the Industrial Hemp Legislation passed unanimously in both the House and Senate in the State of Florida.

Let me quickly break it down how this fits into the People-Planet-Profit model.

  • PEOPLE: Farmers Hemp is a cash crop for farmers. Famers can boost financial sustainability by using greater diversity of marketing techniques: processing on farms, creating value added products and strong brand identity. Community Vitality: When farmers hire help and sell in the community, they contribute to the local economy. Spark industry: Hemp has 25k in potential product applications such as supplements, skin and body care products, clothing and fabric, paper, biofuel and pre-fab construction products like Hempcrete.
    • Products: Hemp can be made into synthetic plastic. Hemp plastic is non-toxic and biodegradable, and it is also much stronger than conventional plastic. FIBER: Hemp can compete with cotton as cotton uses 50% more water than Hemp and cotton also uses up to 25% of the world pesticides and 10% world pesticides.  Tree paper: One acre of Hemp yields as much as 4 acres of trees in one growing season (100 days) that is in comparison to the years it takes for pulp trees to mature and be processed for paper products.  FUEL:  Hemp based biofuel is 86% greener than gasoline and can be used in existing transportation vehicles. HEMPCRETE: is touted as the most energy-efficient construction material on the market, bringing annual energy savings to homeowners and improving the building sectors carbon-dioxide emissions.
  • PLANET: The environmental benefit of Hemp is impressive – it grows everywhere and anywhere. It is naturally resistant to most pests; it grows very tightly spaced, which allows it to outcompete most weeds.  This greatly reduces pesticide, herbicide and nutrient loads that are currently wreaking havoc upon Florida’s waterways.   It is a natural substitute for cotton and wood fiber. Industrial Hemp absorbs more CO2 per acre that any other forest or commercial crop and is therefore an ideal carbon sink. In fact, one hectare of industrial hemp can absorb 22 tons of CO2 per hectare. It is possible to grow two crops annually, so CO2 absorption is doubled.
  • PROFIT: In Canada, Hemp farmers benefit from profits of up to approximately $250 per acre, and a farmer who planted 1,000 acres of Hemp netted $250,000. By comparison, corn wheat brings in variable profits of $30-$100 per acre. The U.S. imports an estimated $150k worth of raw Hemp annually and the U.S. Hemp Product Industry is valued at $500k in annual retail sales. To quote Governor Desantis, “Florida is now on the verge of establishing a state Hemp program creating a multi-billion-dollar industry”. 

Can you imagine if Starke could become a manufacturing hub for these products, and in turn help generate a significant amount of jobs for this region?  As they like to say in Starke, “It’s Better in Bradford,” and I think this is fitting, and possibly more so considering the potential for Industrial Hemp be the new face of Bradford County.



Want to know more about the People, Planet Profit model and how you can work it into your current city, county and business model? Contact me! 

Tony Pooley, Sustainability and Resiliency Development 


Phone: 904-470-2200 ext. 134

Twiiter: @apooley7575

Instagram: @jaxsustainiac



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